The wine industry in the Western Cape, South Africa has expanded over the past decade, particularly since the lifting of trade sanctions in 1992. Wine grapes are cultivated on fertile soils upon which threatened biodiversity habitat units of the Cape Floristic Region occur naturally. There is a concern as to whether further expansion of the wine industry, which would benefit the economy through increased foreign exchange, would encroach on the little remaining vegetation in vineyard-producing areas. Predictive land use modeling using logistic regression techniques was applied to determine suitable areas for vineyard cultivation according to climatic, topographic, and soil/geology variables. Of the most threatened habitats, 14 849 hectares are particularly suitable for vineyards. Breede fynbos/renosterveld mosaic was the habitat most likely to be converted, and was considered 89.3% irreplaceable to current conservation goals. Also vulnerable are Ashton inland renosterveld and Boland coast renosterveld, the latter being 100% irreplaceable. Although the high rate in vine replanting suggests that the need for untransformed land will not be great immediately, an economic analysis showed that protection of these areas against future ploughing will be vital if targets of adequately representing each habitat in the Cape Floristic Region are to be met. Land use change modeling, especially if done in a spatially explicit and integrated manner with expert input, was shown to be an important technique for the extrapolation of historical patterns to understand the forces that shape landscapes, allowing for the assessment of management alternatives, and testing our understanding of key processes in land use changes that effect conservation planning.
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